Invisible Counselors

I’ve always been a big fan and follower of The Art of Manliness. Back in 2012, they posted an article called “The Cabinet of Invisible Counselors.” The premise of the article is to create a sort of imaginary team of mentors you can consult with for advice and inspiration throughout one’s life. After reading the article I decided to create my own, and it has really been highly beneficial. (See mine below)

If this sounds a little absurd or even silly, just think about it like this;  the idea around it is to study and emulate great minds of the past and present … as these mentors can be either alive or dead.

Since creating my cabinet of counselors, I have constantly turned to them when I’m unsure of something, when I need inspiration, or need a sort of life reset (something I discuss in my article called Weekend Morning Routine).

Your cabinet can help you steady yourself  when struggling with difficult decisions or going through troubling times.  You can simply ask yourself “What would ____ do?” in a certain situation that can keep you going in the right direction.

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Picking Your Counselors

1. Pick the members of your cabinet.

This is the fun part! You can choose as many people as you’d like to become part of your imaginary team of advisers. As I mentioned, they can be living or dead, real or even fictional … such as Sherlock Holmes. This is for you specifically, no one else, so choose who you really want.

The people on your cabinet don’t have to be perfect; remember, they are human beings too … flaws and all. You can actually take their flaws and use them to your advantage. For example, Hemingway is one of my advisers  and as much as I love his adventurous side and manly prowess, he had a reputation for being sexist and a bit of a womanizer – something that I don’t want to be. So, I use Hemingway for the things I admire, but take heed of his short comings, and remind myself to not be that way.

2. Learn as much about your invisible counselors as possible.

In order for your counselors to best advise you, you will need to study as much about their lives as you can.  Get your hands on as many biographies as you can and try to read all of their work.

I would recommend picking only 4  to 6 advisers … the men or women you admire the most , and really go in-depth with your research. Try to learn their strengths, their weaknesses, what made them successful, study their habits.

3. Consult with your counselors.

Each counselor will have their own unique skill-set, so depending on what is going on in your life, or the type of advice you need, you will want to have different advisers that can help you in various aspects.

Perhaps you will want to work your way through each adviser one month at a time, like I did to start. But the great part about this is, you can take this on however best suits you. Remember, this should be fun, never a chore, and keep in mind that you are utilizing them to help you.

For me, I also use a note pad to jot down quotes or tidbits of information that I can always use for quick reference.

My Invisible Counselors

1. Marcus Aurelius 

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The Emperor’s Handbook is the book I turn to the most. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor and he was the last of the rulers traditionally known as the Five Good Emperors. He was a practitioner of Stoicism, and his personal philosophical writings, which later came to be called Meditations, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy.

In this book, Marcus continuously points out that man lives only for the present, as the past is gone and the future is uncertain. Man, therefore must not live in regrets or overly worry about the future or death.

When I’m angry, when I feel stressed, this is the book I open and read through. His words have a way of putting things in perspective … a way of saying; “Get your head out of your ass.”

2.  Teddy Roosevelt

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Teddy is a man’s man. I turn to him to raise my adventurous spirit. I look at the life he lived and it makes me get off the couch, to quit being lazy … it makes me ask the question; “what have you done today?”

Teddy lead the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War. He was the Governor of New York, the Vice President under William McKinley and rose to President after McKinley’s assassination. He began construction of the Panama Canal,  won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize and founded the Bull Moose Party.

I read all of this and think; yeah … I need to to do some shit today!

Roosevelt was blind in one eye after a boxing injury in the White House.  He suffered a detached retina in a bout in 1908, and stopped fighting. He switched to jiu-jitsu instead.

Fun Fact: How Teddy Bears Started: While on a hunting trip as President, guides in Mississippi had arranged for Roosevelt to shoot an old bear they had tied to a tree. Roosevelt refused to do so, on sporting grounds. (Instead, he had someone else shoot the bear.) The first part of the incident became a newspaper cartoon, which then inspired a shopkeeper to sell stuffed bears, with Roosevelt’s permission.

3. Thomas Jefferson

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My favorite president, and someone that I also look to to get me motivated to live a full life. A true Renaissance man, TJ had a real thirst for knowledge, and understanding. Not sure if he was ever a master of any one thing … but he tried …  something I can relate to.

Thomas Jefferson really, really liked books. After his retirement, he sold his library of 6,500 volumes to the Library of Congress after it was ransacked by the British. Jefferson needed the cash to pay off debts, but he started buying more books. “I cannot live without books,” he told John Adams.

Jefferson the architect. He designed the rotunda for the University of Virginia, his own home at Monticello, and the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. Monticello has some good resources about what he called the “hobby of my old age,” though architecture actually a lifetime pursuit. Monticello and the University of Virginia are on the World Heritage List.

Jefferson the wine snob.  He had two vineyards at Monticello, which he apparently used to experiment with. Acknowledged as a great wine expert of early America, he sought to promote wine as an alternative to whiskey and cider.

Jefferson the agriculturalist. He believed in the United States as an agrarian society, in part, because it would make the nation independent from other nations. Jefferson practiced what he taught: He was one of the first American farmers to employ crop rotation and redesigned the plow to make it more efficient.

Jefferson the paleontologist. He was also obsessed with fossils and was involved in a great debate about the mammoth that became a political cause. Jefferson raised the profile of paleontology as president, and he has a mammoth named after him.

Jefferson the astronomer. Jefferson loved stargazing almost as much as he liked books. He made sure astronomy was taught at the University of Virginia, and he designed what may have been the first observatory in the United States.

Jefferson the writer. He was a prolific writer during his lifetime, with his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom included in his epitaph (instead of his two terms as president). The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress includes about 27,000 documents, including his extensive correspondence with key historical figures.

4. Hunter S. Thompson

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Hunter S. Thompson is my wild card, and probably my first choice for the one person (dead or alive) that I would invite to diner.

He held people accountable, took swine to task, highlighted the absurdity of the 60’s and despised Richard Nixon.

He’s best known for his book Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, but his novel The Rum Diary is the title I have read the most (and typically read once a year).

I own every book this man has written and every biography that has been put out about him. If you are not too familiar with Hunter and his work, go out and get The Great Shark Hunt and Hell’s Angles … but be prepared, you will never be the same again.

Fun Fact:

Bill Murray (who once played Hunter in the film Where the Buffalo Roam) called Johnny Depp (who was playing Hunter in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas at the time in 1998) and told him this:  “Make your next role drastically different from Hunter. Otherwise you’ll find yourself 10 years from now still doing him.”

Indeed … in my opinion, if you watch Fear & Loathing and then watch Pirates of the Caribbean … the mannerisms are VERY similar.

After Hunter’s passing, Depp was responsible for blasting Hunters ashes out of a cannon! You can watch it on Youtube.

Other attendees at this ceremony included John Kerry, Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, Josh Hartnett and Ralph Steadman.

For writing inspiration and to be inspired to live a little on the edge … Hunter is my guy.

“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is the ones who have gone over.”

 “If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.”

“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

5. Robert Kennedy

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I always preferred Bobby over John F. Kennedy. JFK was the face, but Bobby was the brains. RFK was a complex man, someone who changed his mind on how he viewed things throughout his life and career. He could be loving and at other times crude, and extremely demanding.

He quarreled with Jimmy Hoffa, ran most of JFK’s political campaigns, failed the 3rd grade, hated Lyndon Johnson and many historians credit Bobby for getting us through the Cuban Missile crisis (read 13 Days).

I like Bobby because he was so complex and the epitome of the phrase; work hard, play hard.

6. Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway, like Teddy Roosevelt, was a man’s man.

Aside from Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is my second most read book.

Hemingway made his first visit to Pamplona, Spain after hearing about it from his literary mentor, Gertrude Stein. The city and the spectacle of bullfighting made such an impression on him that he chose it as the setting for The Sun Also Rises. He attended the Pamplona fiesta a total of nine times and, in 1932, published a non-fiction guidebook about bullfighting called Death in the Afternoon which is also one of my favorite books.

Ernest also lead an eventful life. During WWI, an 18-year-old Hemingway volunteered as a canteen worker and an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross on the Austro-Italian Front. In June 1918, while giving out chocolate and cigarettes to the soldiers, he was wounded by an Austrian mortar shell. He was knocked unconscious and buried in the earth of the dugout. Shrapnel hit him in the right foot, knee, thighs, scalp, and hand. Despite these injuries, when he came to he picked up one of the wounded Italian soldiers and carried him to the first aid station. For his bravery, he was awarded an Italian medal of valor.

During WWII, Hemingway used his fishing boat, the Pilar, to hunt for German U-Boats that had entered Caribbean waters.

While vacationing in Africa, he survived two plane crashes in the span of two days. In one instance, his plane caught fire on the runway. With the plane door jammed closed, he used his head as a battering ram and butted it open.

Hemingways had many short-comings, but he was tough, a romantic and incredible writer… winning the 1954 for his work The Old Man and the Sea.

I hope you enjoyed my list on counselors and really hope you create your own. Love a comment below and let me know who you choose to be your advisors

Thanks for reading!

Weekend Morning Routine

 

What is Your Morning Routine?

 

There are lot of articles and books out there written around morning routines… what people eat, how they mediate, what kind of cryo-therapy they use, yadda, yadda. It all sounds well and good but I have to say…I don’t really have a morning routine throughout the week. Granted, I do the basic things that everyone else does … shower, brush your teeth etc., but I don’t meditate or journal or really do anything “special” during the week.

No, I reserve all of that for the weekend.

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My Weekend Morning Routine

I like to wait and do these types of special self-care actions either on Saturday or Sunday mornings because for me, doing this everyday can get a little overwhelming … even tedious, and I want the process that I talk about below to be fun … something I actually look forward to.

On either Saturday or Sunday morning (just depends on what I have going on), I get up early as if I was going to work (so around 6:30-7am). I either sit on the front porch (if it’s raining) or on the back porch and bring with me a journal, a cigar, a pen, a book to read and a cup of coffee.

I use this time to first reflect on the week before. I look at what I’ve accomplished, and what I’ve failed to do. I assess my work, my diet, and if I accomplish my to-do list. Now, I don’t beat myself up if didn’t knock off everything on my list, or if I had a really shitty week at work, ate poorly or missed a workout. I just use this time to self-correct, and to analyze why I got derailed. I write all of this out in my journal so I can see it plainly in black and white.

Granted, this may sound a little crazy or O.C.D., but I believe you have to hold yourself to high standards and always try to improve. I feel you always need to check yourself, and if you do this every week you can catch destructive habits and behaviors quickly. If I feel a murderous rage two weeks in a row because of bullshit at work, I know that I need to journal about this, and diagnose the real issue behind it. If I’ve gained 5 pounds in the past two weeks, I know I need to take my fat ass to the gym more the upcoming week. If I’m feeling lethargic, I can think about my diet, or maybe my sleep patterns the week before and correct it. The key is doing this each week so things don’t get away from you.

You will be surprised by some patterns that form, and how the same things may keep plaguing you (at least they do for me). We can all fall into bad habits and the longer they go, the harder they are to break … that’s why taking the time to analyze this each week, I feel, is very important.

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The Week Ahead

After I look at the week before, I map out the week ahead. I write out my goals, what I want to do, where I’d like to go, or if there is anything upcoming that I would like to attend. I use this time to think about things I haven’t done before that I would like to try (that could be food, places, events etc). Doing all of  this helps me from feeling stagnant.

People ask me all the time how Jillian and I are able to go do all these fun things we do and well … it’s because we plan it ahead of time … we talk about it … ya know … put some thought in to it.

Lounging at home is easy, and I’m the worst about coming home from work tired, and all I want to do is eat and then bend watch a Netflix show. Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely amazing sometimes, as it’s nice to just relax, but there is more to this life than the couch and a TV show.

On Saturday or Sunday, while I’m journaling, if I have gone all week without doing anything when I get home other than watching TV, it’s certainly a concern, but if I’ve done nothing but this the past two weeks, I know that I REALLY need to plan something to break that cycle. When I say “plan something”, this doesn’t mean you have to plan a trip overseas or go out and blow tons of cash on something ridiculous. No, it can be as simple as going out to the movies, trying a new restaurant, reading instead of watching TV, start a new hobby (or pick back-up one you have been neglecting). For me, doing these little thing has helped me fight being lethargic and even depression (especially in the winter months).

My Process

As I told you above, I first use my journal to write out my goals, to write down things I want to do and try.

Then, while I drink my coffee and smoke a cigar, I take that time to reflect on the week and think about the type of person I want to be going forward. I do a self assessment and just think. I  also ask myself questions like: Am I doing things that are bettering myself? Am I behaving the way I should be (i.e. … am I acting like a massive asshole-a lot of times the answer is yes!). For me, I have to manage myself … again, I know this may sound odd, but I know myself and I know that I have to be sure I’m doing the things I need to do in order to do well.

After I journal, smoke my cigar and drink my coffee I will then read a book by one of my Invisible Counselors. (Read my article around that if you want the full rundown) but basically I read about someone I admire, someone Id like to model myself after or someone that has attributes that I like or that inspires me. These include people like Richard Francis Burton, Marcus Aurelius, and Teddy Roosevelt. Reading about these people get my adventurous spirit revved up. It motivates me as I see what all these amazing people have accomplished (and here I’ve been watching Game of Thrones all week on the couch).

Again, I do all of this to check myself … to make sure I’m always striving to do more and to be better.

Sometimes this process will take an hour, sometimes two, sometimes longer. If I can, I try not to put a time limit on it. The key is to wake up early to give myself plenty of time to go through this process and still have the whole day ahead of me. I don’t sleep in til noon … hell I don’t even know what that is like anymore.  If I can give any advice to younger people, it would be is to STOP waking up at 11, 12 or 1. It such a waste of a day.

Id love to hear about your morning routines and what you do, so leave a comment below! What I do may sound ridiculous, and may not work for anyone else, but it has sure helped me. Thanks for reading!

Dress Right & Act Like Somebody

Southern Tab

 

“If you can’t send money, send tobacco.” – (to the Continental Congress, 1776)

– George Washington

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Southern tobacco has a rich and proud history … a once and mighty cash crop our founding fathers revered, appreciated and enjoyed.

Southern Tab, a cigar company based in Georgia is trying to revitalize this, all the while bucking the cigar industry, doing things their own way … the old Southern way.

When you think of cigars, you probably think of Cuba, Nicaragua, or Honduras. These  areas do produce amazing tobacco.  However, Southern Tab is aiming to switch things up, offering a product that truly represents our region. Although the wrappers of their cigars are from the Dominican, they use a tobacco filler from Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina.

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Southern Tabs cigars, if you haven’t tried them already, are a mild to medium cigar with flavors of nutmeg, white pepper, oak, and leather (which I always appreciate). They burn well with a distinct look, feel and smell … it’s like nothing else that I have tried. And that is what I like most about it … it’s different … not what you typically get in smoke shops.

I’m not going to make a grand or bold statement about how they are the best cigar I’ve ever smoked, and I’m not sitting here saying that it’s the only cigar I smoke. What I am saying is that I thoroughly enjoy their cigars, and I’m excited about what they are trying to do. Again, it’s different, bold and pretty damn cool.

Finally, a premium cigar brand that actually celebrates being grown in the South … where it all started.

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Southern Tab Cigars

Starting a business is an empowering and bold endeavor, there is the pride, and of course the money that can accompany it. Yet, it can also come with hurdles and unforeseen pitfalls that can quickly stifle a dream. It takes a special willpower… nerves of steel to go after your passion. Southern Tab is one of those businesses trying to forge ahead, chasing the American Dream … doing it on their own terms.

I had the opportunity to ask Southern Tab a few questions, as I wanted to find out a little more about their business, what they have gone through to try and launch their business, and how they plan to maintain their brand.

I hope you enjoy! (Responses in Blue)

 

Q: What made you start Southern Tab?

A: I was a groomsman in a friend’s wedding in Tuscaloosa, AL.  I had introduced him to the South and now he was marrying a southern belle himself.  Because of my convincing that all things from the South were better, picking up the groomsman cigars meant finding sticks made with southern grown tobacco, of course. Except, as most of your readers already know, they didn’t exist.  

In all of my cigars through the years, I had never really thought much outside of Nicaraguan, Honduran, Ecuadorian, or the ‘let’s all bow down & worship’ Cuban.  I was never loyal to any one label, blend, or country of origin, until it mattered to me.  Now, I was standing in a large humidor in Tuscaloosa, AL,  getting frustrated that in ‘Title-Town’ a place where many a victory cigar had been smoked, and a college town that has birthed plenty of southern lifestyle, there was no cigar available with southern grown tobacco from the region.  I assumed this was an anomaly, but over the next 3 months, I continued to be bewildered that those tobacco fields of the Southland from 200 years ago had moved out of country, sold-out, or just died out.  What was left was merely the short-seasoned tobacco crop for cigarettes and a handful of small farms that desperately tried to blend their crop with something from central america to give it more credence, or soak them in whiskey barrels, or fire-cure them in something else. 

So I started Southern Tab, to unashamedly use and proudly promote our Southern Tobacco from KY, NC, & VA.  …And, of course, to selfishly have a tasty southern cigar to smoke with my buddies.  However, this venture has turned into a small mission to help save a few remaining southern tobacco farms and re-ignite a passion for what was the South’s largest cash crops for a couple of centuries.

 

Q: How difficult has it been to use only Southern Tobacco for your cigars?

A: Extremely difficult. Especially, to get a variety for a solid blend.  I had been calling farms, e-mailing farmers, I was in cigar chat-rooms, and joined tobacco growers clubs to try to find tobacco farmers growing a southern broadleaf sufficient for a premium cigar.  I reached out to Dr. Michael Moore, the tobacco specialist with the school of Agriculture for the University of Georgia, to connect with farms around the state. He was able to connect me with a few farms in NC, but ironically, nothing usable in Georgia. I’m hoping this changes soon.  

I was lucky enough to come across the owner of BlackPatch Cigars, Eric McAnAllen, out of KY.  He had been growing & testing different tobaccos on his wife’s fourth generation tobacco farm she inherited in the black patch region of KY.   With over twenty years of working his own tobacco leaves, he has become our master blender.  We use two of his KY leaves in our blend and then couple those with a North Carolina Broadleaf and a Virginia type 37.  Now the kicker is that our wrapper is the only leaf NOT from the South. It’s from the Dominican.  Which, we make no bones about. It’s beautiful and is the perfect finish to our sticks. With the ph of American tobacco, we needed a component of the Tab make-up to balance our mild to medium cigar

 

Q: What makes Southern Tobacco different, than say Nicaraguan ?

A: Tobacco is a reflection of the soil from where it comes. So Southern Tobacco has its own signature that carries the flavors of the region.  Lots of earthy tastes and aromas, such as Oak, Leather, Pepper, Nutmeg, of course, we like to agree that it finishes like a Sweet Tea. The other differentiator in Southern Tobacco is that you know where these leaves come from.  You can visit these farms without a Visa and American Tobacco is also much more regulated as a farming product than anything in Central America, so this is cleaner and safer too. We pride ourselves on know whats in our leaves, from the ground up. 

There is a heritage and an American pride component in it for us as well. We tend to trust it more because we know the hands working the fields and they’re not kids or slave labor.  Which is the main reason why our sticks don’t cost $7.  Its Southern grown, under our rains & our water supply, with our air, in our Southern soil. That’s what makes it different. 

 

Q: Has distribution into stores been a challenge?

A: Unbelievably Challenging.  We’re not owned & thus not promoted by one of the ‘big 5’ cigar conglomerates out there.  Shops & Cigar lounges don’t want to deal with a one-off, they’d prefer to place all their orders with a single distributer.  Plus, even if we get a seat in the humidor, we never get prime shelf space, because that is reserved for the big dogs paying the big bucks for it. The other challenge is our premium price-point. As mentioned above, our leaves, labor costs and processing just costs so much more for an American grown product. So it is hard to sell our premium cigar and our story without a trusted name behind it to convince people of it’s value. Once we do get into shops, they love us and usually get behind us to promote our unique difference. So we’re looking at how to target the smaller places that sell cigars to our demographic, but may not have a lounge or a walk-in humidor.  Country Clubs, Beach Resorts, and Shooting Clubs have all been good to us.

 

Q: Have you been happy with customer feedback? How do you feel your product is being received?

A: The one thing that keeps saving us and keeps getting our feet in more doors to retailers is the product itself. It is a mild -mild/medium smoke that finishes well and wont knock you on your ass. It is designed for the guy like myself that doesn’t smoke a cigar every day, but on a Saturday with the boys on a back porch, in the field on a hunt, after a bulldog victory, or celebrating life somewhere else.  Our customer’s feedback has been amazing.  We get amazing reviews.  the only negative comment we received recently was that the roll was too tight and they had to re-lite a couple of times. To that, we understand, and since our sticks are hand-rolled in the Dominican, by the best in the industry, we take it as a rare shortcoming.   Our overall reception of the sticks has been fantastic. And I dont even know if people know about the story behind them or that they are American grown here in the South.  We have international buyers order our sticks from Scotland and Germany.  Not sure how they’re fans, but we love them. (And yes, I’ve tried to work out some trades for some Scotch Whiskey, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet)  Our biggest struggle is letting people know that we exist. Once they know our story, and try our cigar, they love us.

 

Q: Where do you see your company growing and going? Anything new coming out?

A: I see the growth of Southern Tab in 3 major markets; college towns, outdoor sporting clubs, and country clubs around the south. We’ve been lucky enough to be featured as a ‘top recommended gifts’ this Holiday Season, in the upcoming Dec/Jan Garden & Gun magazine which plays to one of our core audiences. And we’ll be the exclusive cigar carried in their Field Shop retail store in Charleston. I would love to see us involved in more Southern weddings (since that’s where it all started) as well as graduations & college football victory cigars.  Don’t be surprised if you see a celebrity partner with us pretty soon.  We also are looking at what it could be to partner with a bourbon or high-end moonshine. 

 

As far as what’s new coming out, we’re are talking to a farmer in Meriwether Co. Georgia that just harvested his first batch of tobacco in August.  Tobacco is grown in 13 counties in Georgia, but nothing suitable for a premium cigars. This would give us a Georgia broadleaf to put in our blend. 

At the same time, I’m trying to get a 6th generational shade tree tobacco farm in Gadston Co. Florida to resurrect a tobacco crop for us too.  This would give us 1-2 additional blends.  Our next blend will certainly be a little more robust, but this is still probably not until Fall of 2019.  Until then, we have our single blend with limited edition labels.  We will continue to work our packaging game too. We’ve received lots of compliments on our presentation, but there is still lots more we’d love to do to pull in more of the Southern culture into our packaging. Ya’ll have any ideas, we’d love to hear them. 

 

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If you haven’t already, give these guys a try! Support local business … southern made businesses.  Think about where and how you are spending your money.

Follow them on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/southerntab/

And check out their amazing selection on their website here: https://southerntab.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mint Julep

 

Mint Julep Month

April is Mint Julep month, so in honor of this classic southern cocktail I’ve listed out a few different recipes (along with some how-to videos) for you to try all month long.

How to fashion a true Mint Julep is a hotly debated topic in the world of bartending and mixology, especially in the South. The few ingredients it takes to make one remains constant, yet opinions on how best serve one are varied. Many muddle the mint and sugar together , while others insist that the mint should be smelled not tasted. Therefore, they take mint leaves and “swab” the bottom of the cup to release the mint aroma (see video below). Some use loose sugar or sugar cubes, while others prefer simple syrup. Some even infuse mint into their simple syrup. With the numerous ways to make this cocktail, we thought it best to show you various ways to see what strikes your fancy best.

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Below are varies recipes and ways to make a Mint Julep

The classic take on the Mint Julep is served in a silver julep cup (pictured below).

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If you can, pre-chill your julep cups or glass tumblers before filling with crushed ice. This prevents the ice from melting too quickly.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 oz  Bourbon
  • Fresh Mint
  • 2 tbsp Simple Syrup (some use a little more)
  • Crushed Ice
  • Powdered Sugar (drizzled on top)
  • Fresh Garnish Mint

Mix together simple syrup either muddled with mint or by itself, and Bourbon. Fill glass with crushed ice and pour mixture over top. Sprinkle top of ice with powdered sugar. Garnish with a mint sprig. 

*How to make Simple syrup: 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup distilled water. Heat to dissolve sugar, stirring constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

 

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If this cocktail didn’t seem uppity enough , there are also heated debates on what type of bourbon to use. Woodford, Bulleit, Old Forester, Blanton’s, etc. Everyone has their favorites, and in the South, everyone has an opinion. The best advice is to use a quality Bourbon, something that will make the drink remarkable. You don’t gulp down a Mint Julep, you savor it, you devote yourself to it. So, why would you fill your cup with poor grade bourbon?  Now, I’m not suggesting that you go out and purchase something top shelf,  just don’t fill your cup with something you would take a shot with while at Coyote Ugly’s.

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Here is a variation on the Mint Julep

INGEDIENTS

  • 10 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • Seltzer water
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 1/2 ounces Kentucky bourbon whiskey

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and top that with the sugar. Muddle these together until the leaves begin to break down. Add a splash of seltzer water, fill the glass 3/4 full with crushed ice, and add the bourbon. Top with another splash of seltzer, stir, and garnish with a sprig of mint. 

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How to Make a Mint Julep

How to Videos: (note the various takes on how to make this cocktail)

 

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History of the Mint Julep

Predating the Kentucky Derby, the handmade sterling silver cups have been coveted and collected by the influential and powerful since the early 1800s.  The classic design associated with the silver cup is accredited to early master silver smiths Asa Blanchard of Lexington, Kentucky and brothers William and Archibald Cooper of Louisville.  There are basically two main styles of julep cups:  one is with a beaded rim and the other sports bands at the top.

In a 1908 Chicago Tribune article about the mint julep, Lexington’s Samuel Judson told a reporter: “Take a silver cup—always a silver cup. Fill it with ice pulverized to the fineness of snow. Bruise one tender little leaf of mint and stick it in the ice. Then dissolve a spoonful of sugar in about three-quarters of a Kentucky drink of good whisky and let the fluid filter through the ice to the bottom of the cup. Shake the cup slowly until a coating of a thick white frost forms on the outside. Trim with mint and hand to an appreciative gentleman.”

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Over time, the popularity of the Mint Julep has grown,  largely because of  spirited individuals who loved it. One of those individuals was the very well-liked politician from the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, Henry Clay. Clay served as United States Senator on three separate occasions from 1807-1811, 1831-1842, and finally from 1849 until his death in 1852. He also served a term as Secretary of State from 1825-1829. Senator Clay made the Mint Julep prominent at the world renowned Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar in Washington DC. No doubt it was shared with his powerful constitutes who then went back to their respective  districts and States and told folks about this amazing cocktail.

The Straw:

We also owe the Mint Julep a great thank you for the further development of the straw.  In the 1800s, the rye grass straw came into fashion because it was cheap and soft, but it had an unfortunate tendency to turn to mush in liquid. To address these shortcomings, Marvin C. Stone patented the modern drinking straw, made of paper, in 1888.  He came upon the idea while drinking a Mint Julep on a hot day in Washington, D.C.; the taste of the rye was mixing with the drink and giving it a grassy taste, which he found unsatisfactory. He wound paper around a pencil to make a thin tube, slid out the pencil from one end, and applied glue between the strips. He later refined it by building a machine that would coat the outside of the paper with wax to hold it together, so the glue wouldn’t dissolve in bourbon.

Renowned Mint Julep Celebrations:

The Kentucky Derby  – May 5th, 2018

National Mint Julep Day – May 30th

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month

 

How do you make yours? What kind of Bourbon do you use? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Roots Cafe

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Great Places to Eat in Charlotte, NC

Roots Cafe

With food being such a huge part of our lives, we are always on the lookout for a new eating spot here in Charlotte, NC.

Roots Cafe, which is located at 2135 Southend Dr. Suite 109, has just become one of our new favorite places!

These guys serve up fresh meals with quality, locally sourced ingredients that come straight from the area. Their dishes are both beautiful and delicious!

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The atmosphere is small, yet cozy … the staff, extremely friendly. The menu is diverse and every option is a damn good one. And wait time is no time at all.

Jillian tends to lean towards the healthier of dishes and on both occasions we visited, opted for the root vegetables topped with a fried egg, adding a slice of the bacon which she says “is a MUST.” “The flavors work so well together creating this fresh, feels like comfort dish,” she says. Adding “and the portions are just right, keeping you full and satiated, but not needing to be rolled out.”

She’s also a connoisseur of potato pancakes, having grown up in Jewish community with no shortage of both homemade and deli-made versions. While no one beats her grandfather’s homemade potato pancakes, she says Roots fills the void when she’s 1000s of miles from her family’s recipe.

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As for myself,  I’m a firm believer in saying, ” Is it too much to ask for both?” Thats why I’m a Steak & Eggs or Chicken & Waffles kinda guy. Why limit yourself to just one thing? Why not have both breakfast and diner at the same time? Give either one of these dishes a try and you will not be disappointed. Beware, the Chicken and Waffles may not always be on the menu…but if it is…do it.

When you plan your visit, I would suggest bringing your appetite and just trying a few dishes, not just one. When you walk in, you order at the counter first then sit down. While at the counter, be sure to turn around and grab you some UpDog  Kombucha and be sure to try the coffee. They use Enderly Coffee from Charlotte, NC

Small Venues to Rent in Charlotte, NC

Roots Cafe, Charlotte, NC

Want to have a small get together? Need a intimate venue for a few of your closest pals?

The café is actually available for rent any day of the week/weekend from 5:00pm -9:00pm.

It is $300.00 to rent the café and they require a minimum bar tab of $200.  The maximum number the café can comfortably fit is 50.

Catering is provided by Roots Catering.  The full catering menu can be found at www.roots-catering.com.

 

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You can take a look at there different  menus below. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Roots Cafe Menu

 

Cranberry Mule

Tis the Season For Cocktails

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The holiday season can go either way. It can be a festive, jolly ole time … or …  it can be a real shit-show. Either way, you are going to need to arm yourself with some holiday spirits to get you through the end of the year. 
While other cocktails take plenty of prep, steps and time, the Cranberry Mule is a quick and tasty beverage that can loosen up even the grumpiest of Scrooges. 
A lot of fall & winter cocktails are served hot and/or filled with cinnamon or nutmeg. This is a more refreshing option. For your tasting pleasure, I give you:

The Cranberry Mule

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 oz. cranberry juice
  • 2 oz. vodka (Doc Porter’s -From Charlotte, NC)
  • 1/4 c. lime juice, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 oz. ginger beer
  • 1 package whole cranberries

DIRECTIONS

This one is pretty easy:

  • Combine cranberry juice, vodka and lime in a copper cup with ice. Top with ginger beer, whole cranberries and garnish with a lime wedge.

 

Sautéed Shrimp and Okra

Shrimp and Okra

A little bit on Okra

In my opinion, Okra is the most underrated and under-appreciated vegetable we have. It’s actually a very versatile vegetable  that gets a bad rap because people think it’s “slimy”. How you prep okra will help dictate how “slimy” it gets. Water enhances the “sliminess” so don’t wash the okra until you are ready to cook it.  Also, let the okra sit at room temperature for a while before using it.

Okra does have a substance inside it called mucilage which acts as a natural thickener and is helpful when cooking gumbo and other stews.

Okra was transported across the Atlantic sometime in the sixteenth century from southern Ethiopia.

High in fiber, okra also offers the bulk of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin K, manganese, folate and vitamin C, as well as antioxidants.

Though you can find it year-round in some parts of the country, okra comes into its peak season from May through September.

Be sure to choose pods that are small and crisp and avoid pods that have brown spots or blemishes or are shriveled. To store fresh okra, wrap it up and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days.

Now for the Recipe

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chopped okra
  • 1 lb. peeled shrimp
  • 2-3 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño (be careful not to add too much)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Minced parsley, to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Minced thyme, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 cup diced tomato

REPARATION

  • Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom.
  • Add okra and cook until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally. (If okra starts to stick, add more oil.)
  • Then add the next 5 ingredients. (Shrimp, garlic, jalapeño, ginger, and onion).
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Next, add herbs and tomato
  • Cook until shrimp is ready,  (about 2 to 3 minutes more).

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Have a Dish (or Two) at Haberdish

Haberdish

Charlotte, NC

In the South, food is serious business. There is a lot of sweat, and pride that goes into this region’s dishes. With the knowledge and the alchemy of seasoning  one must master, it’s easy to get it wrong and you certainly can’t fake it. I’ve lived in the South all my life and I have seen establishments fall by the way-side as they try to fabricate a stereotypical southern menu … some feeble attempt at being “cute” or “quaint”.  It’s always a menu of what they think Grandma would have made that typically just ends up being a bland, and overcooked hot mess. Places like this try to hide the poor quality of food by the decor,  serving it up on plates that have “Ya’ll” or “Bless Your Heart” on it … like that is suppose to make it all ok.

No, it takes real skill to cook southern food. This region’s cuisine pulls from all cultures and ethnic backgrounds and you have to know what you are doing to get it right.

We have found a place in Charlotte, NC that pulls this off very nicely. It’s called Haberdish,  a southern kitchen and craft cocktail bar who dishes out southern inspired food influenced by the history of the mill town of North Charlotte (known as NoDa) .

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This place is rustic and open, with shelves of delicious booze against a handsome looking white-clay brick wall. The bar top is a magnificent soap stone that came from a quarry in Virginia. They also have salvage denim on their interior seating that was produced in Cone Mills, N.C. and their table tops are hand crafted locally in Charlotte. The bar taps are reused spindles from a former mill, and the beautiful copper lights are hand-spun,  designed and assembled in Charlotte as well.

It’s a very welcoming and intimate place.  The hostesses are nice and accommodating. We tried to sit outside in the front of the restaurant but it started to rain, so they nicely  and quickly moved us to the side patio that has a unique pergola from Belgium where the overhead slats open and close which allows customers to still sit outside without getting wet. Once it stopped raining they opened the slates back open so the sun could shine through. Ingenious idea!

Now, lets get to the good part.

The Food and Drinks

When we looked at the menu we were surprised to see the selection.  There were many signature southern items, but they were anything but typical.

  • Smoked Deviled Eggs
  • Liver Mush Toast
  • Kale Grits
  • Smokey  boiled peanuts

Thats just to name a few small items.

A true sign of a good restaurant is when you have trouble ordering because you want all the things! So, what we ended up doing, and something we recommend, is choosing a few different items and share. You can check out there menu right here

The first move was towards the hush puppies (served with this delicious sweet tea butter). Next, went went with the pickles because well…I love pickles.  With the pickles you can choose from dill, bread & butter or the daily pickles. On this particular day, they had these spicy pickles which were just damn dynamite! They had a huge kick to them  but they were fantastic!

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With our appetizers we ordered some cocktails. Jillian got the Smoked Mint Julep and I got an Old Fashion.  The Smoked Mint Julep was everything we had hoped for. Most places butcher this cocktail but Haberdish delivered the goods. For those who have never had a Mint Julep, you must try theirs and for those who love this cocktail like we do, you will appreciate their take on it.

As for the Old Fashion, most places can’t make a proper one, leaving you wishing you had never ordered it in the first place and I always judge a bar by their Old Fashion. Haberdish yet again came through. They just know how to make cocktails, period.

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For the Main Dishes we went for the Pork Shank and the surprising good brined, and Smoked Chicken, a juicy concoction glossed with Alabama-style white barbecue sauce. We also had the BBQ glazed carrots and charred okra.

The chicken might be one of the best menu items we have tasted in a long time and if you go, you must absolutely have this dish. The portion size is great for two people.

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Every single dish was thoughtful, exciting and delicious. Hiberdish does an fantastic job of giving you a complete dining experience without having to spend loads of cash on pomp and over priced food accompanied with ill-made cocktails. This place has both style, and just a great vibe to it. You back all that up with great food, and you almost get into the realm of perfection. Take a bow Haberdish … well done!

FOR YOUR VISIT: No, they do not take reservations. BUT, wait, the good news! They use the No Wait app so you can see your wait times and even add your name to the waiting list before you arrive.

 

 

Southern Shine Beard Oil: Review part2

When I first established  The Southern Blueprint, I envisioned working with great people from the South. I really wanted to identify brands that I could get behind, support, to help grow and watch succeed.  The South has so much to offer, and holds so many talented and special individuals.

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One of those individuals is Jayson Reiher, owner of Southern Shine Beard Oil.

A few months back, Jayson was gracious enough to send me some samples of his product, which I ended up really enjoying. You can find the first article I did on them right here .

After chatting with Jayson about how much I really loved his product, he again, was nice enough to send me some more … this time … some new selections to try out.

Below, I give my two-cents about each one. These are just my personal preferences, so take them with a grain of salt. However, I’m incredibly smart so you should certainly listen to everything I say …

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Envy:

This one, I must say is my least favorite of the bunch. It’s a Tea Tree Blend that is for me, a little too strong of a fragrance. However, if you are looking for a “natural-hippyish” type of fragrance, this might be right up your alley. I know a lot of friends in the mountains of Asheville and Boone N.C. that might like this one! If you do use it, do so sparingly … a little goes a long way with this one.

Wise One:

I do like this one better than the Envy but again, not my favorite. This is what you would think a typical beard oil smells like. It’s a middle of the road, classic beard oil. Now, I’m not saying it’s just like all the other beard oils out there as far as quality or longevity of  fragrance. I’m just saying that it smells like your typical beard oil … something your Father or Grandpa would have worn. (thus the name Wise One?)—you will have to ask Jayson about that one.

Mint Eucalyptus:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you either love Eucalyptus or you don’t. I happen to love it, and when you combine that with the Mint, it’s pretty damn amazing.  One would think that with both the Eucalyptus and Mint together it would just burn the hell out of your nostrils and eyeballs, yet the pairing produces this surprisingly sweet smelling aroma.  It’s certainly one of my favorites.

Fierce:

This one is a cologne scented beard oil that I think the ladies will like. It’s a clean smelling fragrance … a very fresh out of the shower smell. Like a lot of good colognes, it actually smells better once it absorbs into the skin. If you are new to beard oil or have a significant other that hates the typical beard oil fragrance, I would certainly give this one a try!

Dolce:

This is another cologne scented beard oil that’s dynamite! I’m not exactly sure whats in it but it smells incredible. Jillian really likes this one as well.  A little dab of this goes a long way.  The scent tends to tame down some over time, yet sticks around for a while, making this one ideal for using on a date. Again, if you are new to the beard oil game try this one, I think you will get lots of compliments.

Bay Rum Beard Balm:

This one is a favorite for sure, and I like to pair it with a beard oil like the Fierce. It’s a sweet smelling balm with a spiciness bite to it. If you are not a fan of the oils, try this balm. You won’t need too much and the smell lasts pretty much all day. I actually prefer to use the balms over the oils at times as it makes my beard a little more manageable to comb and maintain.

Tobacco Road:

This is hands down my favorite of all the products I have tried so far (close with the Zest that I reviewed last time)! Let’s forget about the name for a second as it’s not what you think. This one smells like vanilla and cinnamon and spices that reminds me of the holidays … a euphoric, nostalgic feeling of awesomeness.  It’s also Jillian’s favorite. In fact, the first time she smelled it her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.  I use this one the most and actually, I’m already about to run out … thats how much I’ve been using it.

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Overall, the products Jayson sent over this time are just as incredible as the first batch he let me try. I’m really impressed with the quality of the selections, not just the quantity. There are thousands of beard oil companies out there, and most of them do the same things … they all smell the same way.  Jayson on the other hand has something really special here. With the selection that he has to offer, you will never get bored having to use  the same thing over and over again.

I also like the fact that Jayson’s beard oil and balms actually smell nice to the opposite sex. As I touched on it above with the Wise One, most beard oils smell the same and frankly, after speaking to a lot of females about it … they really don’t like it.

Give Southern Shine a try … you won’t be disappointed and neither will your significant other.

Follow them on Instagram: @southernshinebeard

Be sure to check out their website: www.southernshinebeard.com

 

 

 

 

Asheville for a Ladies Weekend? Yes, Please!

Written by: Jillian Hillard

With Asheville exactly 2 hours to the minute from our home in Charlotte, it’s the ideal get away for many occasions. As the last of my girlfriends sail away to marital bliss, it has been a popular spot for Bachelorette parties. The city’s beautiful mountains, laid back culture, thriving local food and brewery scene, truly provides a great setting for a lady’s last hoorah of singledom. Get ready to check off your #squadgoals, with some musts in Asheville.

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Staying in Asheville

Asheville is one of those cities that you can do the traditional hotel stay, but if you aren’t Airbnb or VRBO’ing it in the mountains or historic districts, then you are missing out on the lure of fresh mountain air and nostalgia. Also, what group of girls doesn’t love the opportunity to have an open space to chit chat in their pj’s while sipping mimosas together?

Note to caution, depending where you are just make sure you have good directions for the Uber or call the local cab company. For the smaller of the two bachelorette parties, we stayed in Montford, which was about a 10 min walk into the city, and the area couldn’t have been cuter!

Friday Night Dining

Like any classy bachelorette party, Friday night both times in Asheville started out with a delicious dinner at a top spot. I had the pleasure of eating at both Posana and Rhubarb, each offering their own version of “local” cuisine. They are actually right next to each other in the heart of downtown Asheville. Rhubarb’s craft cocktails and fresh farm roasted chicken sealed my sentiment for their offerings, while Posana’s Carolina Bison and Beet Tartare is unlike any tartare I have had before.  I keep dreaming of the next time I can bite into it. It’s also worth mentioning that the last bachelorette party I attended had 17 girls and due to some transportation issues, half the party arrived much later. Posana was extremely accommodating keeping the drinks flowing for the girls there and getting the girls who arrived later quickly lubricated. Both times, a good dinner followed by a few night caps at local watering holes ended the night so we could be ready to take on the next day.

Tip: Make a reservation.

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Saturday All-Day Funtivities

It’s the Saturday all day funtivities that deserve the bulk of this article. Keeping up your figure in your 30s is a real struggle. Both bachelorette parties sought to start the day with some physical activity which is readily available surrounding Asheville. A mountain hike or any of the many 5K-10K runs in the city are a great way to energize for the let’s be honest, day drinking to follow. So without further ado, the two day drinking activities I recommend most.

Asheville Brewery Tours

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With the tagline, “let the locals drive you,” our driver Lindsay Lee of Asheville Brewery Tours was phenomenal. It felt like a longtime friend fresh with the knowledge of the local brewery scene picked you up. Our particular tour started at noon and took us to three of Asheville’s own Green Man Brewery, Hi-Wire and Catawba. At each we received a tour and background info, multiple tastings and enough time to sit and enjoy the atmosphere before hopping to the next one. It was a well-timed trip ending at 4pm.

A personal favorite was Green Man with its newly opened facility and great décor (and light fixtures I want for my home).

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I really enjoyed the English Porter, but I am not much of an IPA gal so sorry for those looking for an IPA review. My fellow ladies who are into IPAs found H-Wire more their jam. While at Hi-Wire we also enjoyed the Foothills Meats food truck with again “local farm-to- table” ingredients. Their Cuban sandwich paired with beer was everything needed for a day of drinking.

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In addition to beer, all of the breweries offered some form of live music, outdoor spaces and games from cornhole to Jenga. Asheville in March at 70 degrees is hit or miss, but we hit well not having to worry about transportation and getting a cultured beerucation!

The tour drops you back off in downtown Asheville, close to many other breweries. This led us to tour one more brewery, the popular Wicked Weed, which is also great for non-beer drinkers, and people who love dogs. This brewery does a good job of attracting people and puppies.

Zen Tubing

Oh, what fun you will have floating down a river for 4-5 hours! I mean it, this is one of the best times I have had at a bachelorette party. It’s simple, you rent your tube and rent a tube for a cooler, and proceed to float down the French Broad River while drinking your own spirits and chomping on snacks with your best friends. It’s for all ages and if you do the Midtown one, it will end you just minutes away from the New Belgium Brewery in case you didn’t bring enough to drink on your float! As you float you pass the majestic nature scene of Asheville, while also meeting and passing other floaters along the way. There are “professional” floaters with “Taj Mahal-like” floats that are sure to initiate a giggle and photo op. We did get caught in a storm but it was part of the fun to be honest, and allowed us to meet some fellow floaters for more cheers along the way.

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Sunday Brunch

All successful Southern bachelorette parties generally comes to a close with the traditional Southern brunch (note: NC laws will not allow alcohol before noon, so don’t stumble in before that if you are seeking “hair of the dog” with some of Asheville’s famous Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas). On these two occasions, we experienced Mayfel’s and The Marketplace Restaurant & Lounge. Mayfels, opened by Loretta Woolley in the spring of 2003, brings Louisiana-style cuisine to Asheville’s brunch scene, and for a cute story on the name check out the site. It’s a rather small footprint so plan for a smaller bachelorette party. As an avid eggs benedict bruncher, I had to go with the Mountains to Sea Crab Cakes, and the generous pieces of crab softly bunched together as a patty showcased they know how to do a proper crab cake. The atmosphere here is warm and friendly, and the bright colors will help you feel more energetic after a hard hitting weekend.

For a bit of a more upscale experience, and larger parties, The Market Place hit the spot. The restaurant has been a fixture in downtown Asheville since 1979 and is currently headed up by Chef William Dissen who has a list of accolades to be proud of. Chef’s Dissen’s commitment to the “local” can be seen in the menu choices. My favorite thing is to buddy up with a friend and share two entrees to get a taste of both the savory and sweet side of breakfast rather than decide. On this trip, my girlfriend and I split the Banana Bread French Toast with mascarpone, bourbon macerated raspberries, and maple syrup; and the Spinach & Goat Cheese Omelet with herb roasted potatoes and a jalapeno biscuit. If I had to choose one, the Banana Bread French Toast was just on its own level. I am sitting her salivating as I write this because its hands down one of the best brunch dishes I have ever had, and that is generous considering the food I have experienced in life. It was fresh, it was sweet, it was melt in your mouth delicious.

Asheville has a little bit of everything and I only skimmed the surface with the fun things to do there for a bachelorette or any event really.

Helpful Planning Tips:

  •  Rent a home through AirBnB or VRBO
  • Make a reservation for hot restaurant spots, Curate is another great place
  • Do plan an outdoor activity, be it hiking, tubing, etc.
  • Brunch is a must because that’s what the South does best on Sundays
  • Bring a jacket or sweater at night, it’s the mountains and gets chilly
  • If you aren’t beer drinkers, call ahead to breweries to check on their liquor, cider and wine offerings; some do options for everyone
  • Go to a brewery, it’s a part of the Asheville scene, I would also recommend coffee shop stops too
  • Casual is key, you can still look super cute but this laid-back town isn’t it for sparkly dresses

The New South is Here